RIP, Center Theater; long live Afghan Theater


That’s the inside of the theater in Centerville that used to be called the Center Theater or the Park Theater, but is now the Afghan Cultural Arts Theater, which will have live performances and serve as a television studio for a planned Afghan satellite television network.

That’s a bummer to Centerville folks who wanted the city to buy the theater and turn it into a community theater.

The city had the theater appraised, and offered the appraised price last year, but the theater owner rejected the offer. He had taken out loans against the theater, and the new Afghan television operator says he’s going take over the loans, which will make him the theater’s owner.

He thinks he can make it work, even though he’s paying above the appraised value, and the city didn’t expect to make money from a community theater. Hopefully, there’s a lot of money in Afghan satellite television

Read my story about it here.

One tidbit I didn’t mention in the story. The theater’s grand opening is a concert scheduled for Saturday. But the theater’s use permit doesn’t allow concerts. The new operator is now calling it a “grand opening” with music. But if the city thinks it’s a concert, it could shut it down.

Interesting to see what happens Saturday. I’ll be in Great Neck.

Matt Artz


  1. Good for the owner. This is an ideal spot for and Afghan theater. A city-run performing arts center would have been an odd fit, considering the Afghan influence in the area.

  2. Regarding the new operators of the theater and their business plan…I would assume that there will be opportunities for the community to rent the theater between the various activities the new operators plan. (I hope) As I think of the Flamingo/Diamond palace venues behind the theater, they do seem to be predominantly used by the Afghan community. The vision for the Center Theater for the Performing Arts and the associated Cultural Arts Resource Center (in place of the run down apartment building behind the theater)has always been to create a venue that is not cultural specific…one that furthered our goals to be an inclusive community and make Centerville cosmopolitan (pertinent or common to the whole world). Afterall, it is when we bring the community together in common interest that we break down cultural differences. (or gain greater appreciation for the various cultural celebrations and art forms) Change is good…and I am anxious to see the theaters business plan in play. The new operators have painted and improved the look of the theater. My concern is this…when we create a predominance of a specific business ethnicity in any community…in our case Centerville, it can have a detrimental effect on business for those of a different ethnicity than the prevailing demographic. There needs to be a balance…a “cosmopolitan” mix of business. There are wonderful businesses in Centerville…and I highly suggest you try Aziz’s new De Afghan restaurant in the old Kleins Lounge space. Additionally, Salang Pass is a favorite of mine. Centerville has counted on the unified site as well as the Center Theater for the Performing Arts with its Cultural Arts Resource Center to lift it out of its current state of being…for the past 10 years. As a business owner…I have seen walk-in traffic in my store deteriorate over the past 10 years by 80%…(for a variety of reasons, as the economy and the internet share blame) I need to locate my store in a dynamic retail area (Mid Town?) where there is a diverse mix of all demographics and retail synergy to create walk-in traffic. This is the same reason why the retailers many of us want in Fremont have NOT located here. Such an area does not exist yet. It is the city’s vision to build it to attract those business, and as a retailer, it is wise to associate ones business in such an area. When Charter proposed their project for the Unified Site…I moved my business to be close to that exciting development. I was premature. I have 4 years left on my lease…and you can bet I am waiting to see where I can find the retail synergy and create the store and retail experience I am capable of creating…one that can be supported economically. I’ve been pinning my hopes on Centerville for 27 years…and with this new development for the theater…it may be a bit of a setback. I hope to be proven wrong.

  3. “I am waiting to see where I can find the retail synergy and create the store and retail experience I am capable of creating…” Dirk, have you considered The Block in Pac Commons? It appears the table has tilted and everything is rolling that way.

    You’ve been waiting for Centerville to develop for 27 years and we have been waiting for a city center to develop longer than that. City council members come and go and nothing changes.

    Downtown Livermore might be a good bet, or as Gus mentioned, Pleasanton.

  4. As the Chairperson of the Planning Commission of the City, Dirk should not make such comments in public to influence the commission.

    As business man and the so called community leader of the Centerville for 27 years his contribution is to allow the City Council to sell a lot of 6.6 acres in front his store for Dollar one, repeat Dollar one ( $1.00.)

    Dirk would not like to see business development in Centerville to have monopoly of his flower shop. We have to support and welcome any new business coming to fremont to create jobs.If we fail in this, no new business will come to Fremont.

  5. Dirk, Center Theater was never going to work – it was dead on arrival. The money necessary to fix it would be exorbitant and I really don’t think folks really would have gone down there. It would be much cheaper to build a performing arts center from scratch.

  6. A definite step back for centerville. This area will continue to remain a ghetto for a while now.

  7. I do hope that the new owner finds their proverbial nut.

    More likely this is just one more stake in that very unique ground of civic blight which we call Centerville.

    With only $68 grand in the start-up facilities rennovation budget, I have to wonder how the owner plans on realizing their self-described vision of a “premier destination”.

    (Personally – I speculate that you could not give the carpets a proper cleaning and throw a coat of paint on the facility for that amount.)

  8. Don’t give up on Centerville…better days are coming. As far as the cost of a new performing arts center…figure between $90M and $120M for such a venue. Livermore’s Bankhead was in the $120M price range for their 500 seat theater from scratch. The Venuetech/ Center Theater Preservation Group “black box” style remake of the Center developed by along with the Cultural Arts Resource Center (a 10,000 sq ft addition taking the place of the existing apartment building that is located behind the existing theater..that added rehearsal space/ set building capability, offices for 5 local groups (possibly the Fremont Cultural Arts Council, Fremont Symphony, Fremont Film Forum, Starstruck or Stage One, or the Fremont Opera along with meeting rooms) had a total budget of around $9M-$11M. It is believed that if we are going to build the type of performing arts center Fremont has desired for 30 plus years…we have to begin with a venue such as the Center Theater to prove we as a community can financially support the arts IN our community. Large venue are not revenue neutral…they take large subsidies for operations. (City of Walnut Creek spends $1M plus a year on the Lusher Theater in that city) The beauty of the plan for the Center Theater was it was designed to be so versatile that there was the potential for it to be revenue neutral. I have complete plans for the Center Theater for the Performing Arts as well as the Cultural Arts Resource Center and would be happy to share with anyone interested.

  9. Derk,
    I am confused. The Center Theatre is no longer available, why are you talking about what should have been, that is all gone now, down the drain, right?

    I am not suprised, but the good news is that the
    “San Jose Center for the Performing Arts” is only 20 to 30 minutes away, they have the very best version of the NutCracker in Northern California.
    Derk is right about a goal of revenue nuetral is the target. The San Jose Performing Arts is Subsidized by the Fry Family, Specifically John Fry.
    I do not think Fremont has the leadership to ever have a Performing Arts Center

  10. Dirk, it is a given fact local municipalities cannot build this type of facility on their own. Corporate sponsors, and the naming rights that go with it, must be approached. I’m not sure we have corporate deep pockets within our city limits that could qualify at this time. NUMMI was one of our major community sponsors. Lam as well, but they seem to be in transition. Our newbie, Tesla, isn’t quite ready yet and Solyndra is currently in retreat. Once again we seem to be stuck on our historical sites rather than thinking new.

  11. I honor of Dirk Lorenz, I am not using paragraph breaks in the following post:

    I often hear complaints about Niles receiving an unfair portion of redevelopment funds, especially when compared to funding for an arts center in Centerville. My take is that the city leadership believed that Niles had paid their dues patronizing and sustaining smaller arts-related offerings (like the silent film theater, rail museum, etc). I think the city pays attention to this, and as Dirk says attendance has to be demonstrated before the money starts to flow in. Say what you will about the redevelopment of Niles main street being unfair. Many more than expected attended the live musical performances at the Niles town square this year. I can’t imagine the same result in Centerville. At least there is not an organized and effective effort to demonstrate that an arts center there will be fully used.

  12. To quote Dirk at #2 at the bottom of his comment.
    ” I have 4 years left on my lease and you can bet I am waiting to see where I can find the real synergy and create the store and retail experience. I am capable of creating. One that can be supported economically”.

    He is a failed fixture in Centerville for 27 years and similarly in Fremont Chamber of Commerce and talks about
    the Center Theater.

  13. Anyone who cares about Fremont, and that should be all of us, has to hold Dirk Lorenz as a shining example of an involved, active and caring citizen. Dirk epitomizes the generous and civic-minded business owner that we strive to attract and keep.

    You may disagree with some of his proposals, as is your right, but I think we would all be hard-pressed to find any business owner or Fremont resident who is as selfless and engaged as Dirk.

    I have witnessed first-hand Dirk’s unprovoked and continuing willingness to help raise funds and awareness for our schools and community while at the same time asking for nothing – not even recognition – in return.

    Dirk Lorenz is as solid a citizen as we have. Period.

  14. Fremont will never be a considered a WHOLE community. I was at the recent Niles Xmas parade and there were many people watching it.

    This is something that the City should be doing instead of each individual district. In fact, its almost like each is still its own little district. I think Fremont swallowed more than it could support when it incorporated Niles,Centerville, Mission San Jose & Irvington back in the 50’s.

  15. TonyG said. “…its almost like each is still its own little district.” Not almost like Tony. Each is it’s own. Each has at least one, if not more, business associations. Also, take a look at the banners hanging on their street lights. None attempt to incorporate the city name, just their district name. This is something else the city should be doing, a comprehensive marketing plan. Oh, but wait, I know, no money for that sort of thing. That works so well for anything you don’t want to do.

  16. VOR said “Oh, but wait, I know, no money for that sort of thing. That works so well for anything you don’t want to do.”

    ….except there’s plenty of money for the WOW stadium scheme. That money could have been used for tree trimming, road fixing, and more.

    Oh, but wait, it’s from a different pot of money and you can’t touch those stadium money.

  17. Posts 12, 15, 16,
    What you are seeing is a complete lack of leadership from our elected officials they are so busy stuffing commissions with there supporters, and remember they are just part timers!
    Our elected officials lack the Vision, Innovation, Leadership with the possible exception of Anu

  18. One of the basic precepts of the original General Plan for the new city of Fremont was to preserve the historic character of the original districts. We have done that pretty well (and, Tony, remember Warm Springs too.)

    The various community business associations have taken leadership roles in enhancing their communities and sponsoring special events. The city cannot legally sponsor events tied to religious observations and, practially, with the number of religions represented today in Fremont, probably couldn’t afford to do so.

    I would guess that we can find things to gripe about that are real, rather than what we wish might happen.

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